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Man accused of stealing roommate's pricey puppies

ST. PETERSBURG — Francis Dalberth didn't expect his roommate to be happy that he was kicking him out.

But he didn't think he'd go so far as to steal his puppies as revenge.

Dalberth, a 57-year-old breeder, said a day after he told Frederick Nelson that he had to find a different place to live, two of his dogs, both 6-month-old miniature Pinschers, disappeared.

A neighbor reported seeing Nelson walking down an alley Thursday morning with one of the dogs, gripping it around the neck.

"I never thought for five seconds that he would do something like this," said Dalberth, who said he breeds miniature and Doberman Pinschers for a living. "I can't even begin to think about what he may have done with them."

Authorities arrested Nelson, 49, late Thursday night on a charge of grand theft. As of Friday evening, he remained in the Pinellas County Jail in lieu of $5,000 bail.

Neither of the puppies was found Friday.

Dalberth said he feels betrayed by Nelson, who he said was down on his luck when they met last fall.

Dalberth said he tried to help Nelson by letting him stay at his home in the 3500 block of 52nd Avenue N, but Nelson didn't seem interested in getting a job.

"He didn't contribute a thing," Dalberth said.

On Wednesday, Dalberth told Nelson he had to go.

Nelson wasn't pleased, Dalberth said, but the two agreed he could have until the weekend to find a new place.

On Thursday, the puppies vanished. Meanwhile, a neighbor called.

Jason Summerlin said he was drinking coffee at about 9:30 a.m. Thursday on his porch when he noticed Nelson walking from Dalberth's house.

"I just saw the guy walking down the alley choking the little guy," Summerlin said.

Summerlin, a 39-year-old nurse, said he yelled out at least twice for Nelson to stop, but Nelson didn't respond and kept walking.

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office responded to the scene and interviewed Nelson.

"He denied at first having any of the dogs, and that he doesn't know what happened to them," said Sgt. Tom Nestor, a sheriff's spokesman.

But after a deputy interviewed Summerlin, Nelson changed his story several times, Nestor said.

Dalberth wonders if Nelson let the puppies loose, gave them away or did something worse out of spite.

"Coco" is chocolate brown. "Peanut" is black and tan. Both are males and weigh less than 5 pounds. According to an arrest affidavit, the dogs are valued at $650 each.

"I'm just kind of at a loss," Dalberth said. "I'm still very devastated. They're kind of like your kids."

Kameel Stanley can be reached at or (727) 893-8643.

Man accused of stealing roommate's pricey puppies 04/16/10 [Last modified: Friday, April 16, 2010 10:25pm]
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